Going Underground : Creating Subterranean Imaginations

Authors: Harriet Hawkins*, Royal Holloway, University of London
Topics: Physical Geography
Keywords: Subterranean
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Palladian, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper takes us on an experimental journey underground, visiting a series of subterranean sites dispersed in space and in time. Exploring caves, venturing down holes, and squeezing through tunnels in the field, the studio and the gallery, the paper reflects on a series of creative projects, some made several centuries ago, others more recent collaborations between geographers and artists.


After decades of western eyes being drawn up and out, the interest in the vertical and the geologic has complicated geographical imaginations dominated by ‘surface chauvinism’ and atmospheric concerns. Rich accounts of historical underground demonstrate the role of subterranean arts and culture in everything from shaping the emergence of Geology as a modern discipline, molding the form of the modern European city, helping constitute the cartographies of colonialism, as well as, crucially forming modern western environmental imaginations.


Drawing from the force of these histories, this paper explores the environmental imagination that emerges through this underground journey. In doing so it revisits our understandings of the geographic imagination and proposes the possible value of this concept as part of the emerging creative vocabulary of global environmental change.

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